The Quiet American (2002 film)

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The Quiet American
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPhillip Noyce
Written byChristopher Hampton
Robert Schenkkan
Based onThe Quiet American
by Graham Greene
Produced byStaffan Ahrenberg
William Horberg
StarringMichael Caine
Brendan Fraser
Do Thi Hai Yen
CinematographyChristopher Doyle
Edited byJohn Scott
Music byCraig Armstrong
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release dates
  • September 9, 2002 (2002-09-09) (TIFF)
  • November 22, 2002 (2002-11-22) (United States)
  • May 22, 2003 (2003-05-22) (Germany)
Running time
101 minutes
United States
United Kingdom
Budget$30 million
Box office$27,674,124

The Quiet American is a 2002 political drama film and the adaptation of Graham Greene's bestselling 1955 novel set in Vietnam, The Quiet American. It is directed by Phillip Noyce and stars Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, and Do Thi Hai Yen.

The 2002 version of The Quiet American is faithful to the novel, in contrast to the 1958 film version which abandoned Greene's cautionary tale about foreign intervention into anticommunist advocacy of American power. Like the novel, the 2002 film illustrates the moral culpability of American agents in arranging terrorist actions aimed at the French colonial government and the Viet Minh. Going beyond Greene's original work, the film used a montage ending with superimposed images of American soldiers from the intervening decades of the Vietnam War.

Miramax paid $5.5 million for the rights to distribute the film in North America and some other territories, but it shelved the film when test audiences in the wake of the September 11 attacks perceived the film as unpatriotic.[1] The film finally received an Oscar qualification release in November 2002 and went on to gross US$12.9 million in limited theatrical release in the United States. The film received positive reviews from critics and Caine was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor.


The story is set in 1952 in Saigon, Vietnam (French Indochina at that time), toward the end of the First Indochina War (1946–1954) in which French forces fought the Communist-led Viet Minh rebels. On one level, The Quiet American is a love story about the triangle that develops between Thomas Fowler, a British journalist in his fifties; Alden Pyle, a young American idealist; and Phuong, a young Vietnamese woman. On another level it is also about the growing American involvement that led to the full-scale American war in Vietnam.

Thomas Fowler, who narrates the story, is involved in the war only as a reporter, an unengaged observer, apart from one crucial event. He lives with a young Vietnamese mistress, Phuong. Pyle, who represents America and its policies in Vietnam, poses as an aid worker but is eventually exposed as a Central Intelligence Agency operative. Pyle is sent to steer the war according to America’s interests, and is passionately devoted to the ideas of an American foreign policy theorist who said that what Vietnam needed was a "third force" to take the place of both the colonialists and the Vietnamese rebels and restore order. Pyle sets about creating a "Third Force" against the French and the Viet Minh by using a Vietnamese splinter group headed by corrupt militia leader General Thé (based on the actual Trinh Minh Thế). His arming of Thé's militia with American weaponry leads to a series of terrorist bombings in Saigon. These bombings, blamed on the Communists in order to further American outrage, kill a number of innocent people, including women and children.

Meanwhile, Pyle has made advances towards Phuong, promising the marriage and security Fowler has thus far refused her. When Fowler discovers Pyle's involvement in the bombings, the reporter urges Pyle to express remorse for the civilian deaths he caused, or express doubts about the certainty of his actions. When Pyle refuses, Fowler tacitly agrees to enable his assistant Hinh, and Hinh's Communist cohorts, to take Pyle captive. When Pyle tries to flee, Hinh fatally stabs him. Phuong subsequently returns to Fowler, and while the local French police commander suspects Fowler had a role in Pyle's murder, he has no evidence and does not pursue the matter.



The film was shot in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Ninh Bình and Hội An in Vietnam.


The film earned positive reviews from critics, currently holding an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 156 reviews, and an average rating of 7.65/10, with the consensus: "Thoughtful and wonderfully acted, The Quiet American manages to capture the spirit of Green[e]'s novel."[2] It also has a score of 84 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[3]

The first rough cut was screened to a test audience on September 10, 2001 and received positive ratings. However, the September 11 attacks took place the next day, and audience ratings dropped with each subsequent screening. Reacting to audience perception that the film was not patriotic, Miramax shelved the film for a year. The Quiet American was finally screened publicly at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2002 to critical acclaim. The film received an Oscar qualification release in November 2002 and a limited release in January 2003.[1]

The theatrical release ran 118 minutes.[4] Subsequent television and video releases cut 17 minutes, and run 101 minutes. Cut were: love scenes between Fowler and his young mistress, Phuong; Pyle's courtship of Phuong while Fowler is away; and much of the exposition of the police investigation at the end of the film.


Academy Awards

Golden Globe Awards

BAFTA Awards

American Film Institute Awards

  • Movie of the Year - Won

London Film Critics' Circle Awards

National Board of Review

National Society of Film Critics Awards

Satellite Awards

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thompson, Anne (17 October 2002). "Films With War Themes Are Victims of Bad Timing". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 5, 2012.
  2. ^ "The Quiet American (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 September 2017.
  3. ^ "The Quiet American". Metacritic.
  4. ^ "The Quiet American".

External links[edit]